Opposition to the Nomination of Richard Honaker to the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming

Recipient: Senate Judiciary Committee

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Specter:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we write to express our opposition to the nomination of Attorney Richard Honaker to the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming. Mr. Honaker’s writings indicate that as a judge he would likely privilege his own moral and religious views over the precedents of our federal courts, thus undermining the fairness and stability of our judiciary and potentially putting civil rights rulings at risk.

Mr. Honaker has made numerous public assertions that call into question his willingness to follow precedent in all cases. While deeply-held religious views are certainly no bar to a judgeship, Mr. Honaker has indicated he believes that his religious values underlie our laws and that such values should trump conflicting judicial decisions. In a 1992 speech, Mr. Honaker suggested that that he believed “human law [should] be fashioned after and subject to a higher law – the higher law of God,” rather than be “no more than what the judges say it is.” He went on to observe that the American legal system is based on “the principles of the Bible and of Christianity as truth – as absolute truth for American society,” and that “if the Bible is true, if Christianity is true, then … it is true in law, and it is true in all facets of human endeavor.”

Mr. Honaker appears to still hew to the belief that our laws and precedents should be dictated by his religious values. In a 2005 speech, he condemned the movement of the courts and other institutions “away from a Christian base toward a secular base in which man, not God, is the creator of values, of rights, of law, of justice.”

Moreover, Mr. Honaker has made specific comments disparaging Supreme Court decisions. In his writings in 1992, Mr. Honaker decried specific current Supreme Court precedents as violating an “absolute value” and as “abandon[ing] … the concept that a fabric of common values binds the nation together.” The stridency and absolutism of these statements, in connection with other statements in which he has elevated religious values over precedent, raise legitimate concern over his ability to faithfully apply these and other precedents that contradict his religious views.

While Mr. Honaker has been nominated to the district court, where his decisions would be subject to appeal, it is nonetheless essential that he demonstrate he will respect precedent. For example, injunctions issued by district courts can dramatically affect the rights of parties, who are bound by them until the court of appeals has an opportunity to fully review the case.

In evaluating a nominee to the federal bench, the Judiciary Committee should look first and foremost to that person’s record, which – as experience with past nominees has taught us – is the best predictor of how one will rule from the bench. The nominee’s record must reveal a commitment to civil rights, and must instill confidence that he or she will apply our civil rights laws and precedents in good faith. Mr. Honaker’s record in fact affirmatively casts doubt on his ability to faithfully apply our laws and precedents, and his nomination should be rejected.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Zirkin at 202-263-2880, or Paul Edenfield, Counsel and Policy Analyst, at 202-263-2852.


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Vice President/Director of Public Policy